Wednesday, April 09, 2008

With the Blessing of the Chicago History Museum

For almost eighty years, the firm of Hedrich Blessing has created some of the most iconic photographs of architecture, views that have defined individual classic buildings for generations. In 1991, the first forty years of Hedrich Blessing's work, through 1969, was donated to the Chicago History Museum.

The size of gift is staggering: 14 collections encompassing a quarter million photos. Now, with a $90,000 grant from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the museum is digitizing 15,000 of those images and making them available on-line. Work began in 2006, and today from 20 to 25 images are being added to the catalog each day. It's a three-part process that involves an initial scan, a cleaning up of the digitized images, and adding them to the museum's ARCHIE on-line database.

Obviously, this is a scholar's treasure trove, but anyone can take a trip through the catalogued - and still copyrighted - images. Currently, the Museum has completed digitization of 230 images from 1933-34 the Century of Progress Exhibition, 225 from the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, and a whopping 2,200 documenting the work of Mies van der Rohe, including exhaustive catalogues on projects like the pioneering 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments and IIT Commons Building, everything from hero shots, to a wealth of photos taking during construction, and even shots of drawings and floor plans. Next up is Bertrand Goldberg, to be followed by Holabird & Roche/Root, Graham Anderson Probst and White, SOM, Harry Weese, Albert Kahn and White Perkins and Will.

Two examples, courtesy of the Chicago History Museum, are included here. Be forewarned, however, ARCHIE can be as addictive as You Tube. You'll may find yourself browsing to just one more page, then another, and another, until the next thing you know it's 6:00 A.M., the sun's coming up, and you find you've fallen asleep on your keyboard, leaving your face looking like a waffle. Check it all out here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A correction: the Hedrich Blessing collection was not donated to the Chicago Historical Society (now the Chicago History Museum). The museum was able to purchase the collection thanks to a speedy fundraising campaign among the architecture community that ensured the material would stay in Chicago and not be sold out of town. Since that initial purchase, some additional HB material has been acquired by the museum; whether that too was purchased or it was donated, I don't know. A recent press release from the museum misstated this detail of the collection's acquisition. They need to know their own history!